Strolling past the many art galleries in the Sai Wan district, a piece of visual magic often catches our eye. We wish to take a closer look but are hesitant since we feel only serious art buyers will be welcome. But March is Hong Kong Art Month, with the city hosting various annual art events. And since we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy art, we set out to discover a few galleries in the ’hood that welcome visitors who are taking their first steps into the art world. These galleries also shared some valuable tips for novice collectors picking out their first piece of art.
For eight years, Puerta Roja, located on the first floor of Soho 189, has promoted Latin American and Spanish artists with an eye to the relevance of their work in Asia. “The idea is that we’re bringing concepts from one culture to another culture without a Western interpretation, it’s a little bit more direct,” said Laura Zhang, the gallery’s head of content. “Because a lot of the art world is kind of centered within the West, we wanted to bridge two places which are slightly more on the periphery.”
“Physichromie RVB DOS” by Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014
If you haven’t visited Puerta Roja, a good introduction is the next exhibition, “Visions in Motion,” which features six artists who have had major solo shows there. They include Carlos Cruz-Diez, a French-Venezuelan artist who is still working at age 95. Another highlight is the Chilean artist Fernando Prats, who captures the flapping of birds’ wings on smoked canvases. “All the works kind of approach movement in some way through different forms of abstraction,” Zhang said. The exhibition runs until May 4.
Just starting out? Zhang suggests doing gallery tours, and says gallerists are happy to help guide you. “It’s very important to get people engaged with the act of buying artwork, because otherwise the artists really can’t survive,” she said. Works at Puerta Roja start at $1,500 for limited-edition prints and go into the millions.
Address: 189 Queen's Road West, Sheung Wan. Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am to 7pm
The famous line by the poet Horace “A picture is a poem without words” rings true the minute you step into Blue Lotus Gallery. Founded in 2007 by Sarah Greene, this photography gallery is located in a quaint and historical nook in Sheung Wan and has a strong focus on exploring Hong Kong culture and identity both old and new. It offers an exquisite selection of books, limited-edition prints and vintage prints by leading Hong Kong photographers like Fan Ho, Michael Wolf, Michael Kenna and Romain JL, as well as emerging contemporary artists. “We have always aimed to make art approachable through various art-related activities like book-signing events, podcasts and walking tours,” said Christina Jensen, the gallery manager. One such event being planned for the near future is a “secret tour” of Sheung Wan that will take participants to the sites of iconic street photographs.
An exhibition at the gallery this month showcases the last body of work by the late photographer Fan Ho, as embodied in his book project “Portrait of Hong Kong.” He personally selected the images from his own archive and then cropped them in his signature style. The flow of images takes you on a journey through the length and breadth of Hong Kong and its changing faces through time. The exhibition runs from March 22 to April 28.
Another visual treat is the latest work by Romain JL, a poetic amalgamation of old road signs in Mandarin and local city themes.
Fan Ho - Multifunction Staircase 1961
Just starting out? Jensen says that while other media like paintings and sculptures tend to start at a high price point, works by photographers tend to come in editions, signed and limited by the artist which in comparison to other media are more affordable even for very established photographers. To gauge a photographer’s reputation, Jensen suggests looking for positive indicators like awards, substantial press coverage and representation by galleries in different regions.
Address: 28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan; Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am to 6pm
More and more people are exploring the galleries of Sai Ying Pun as an alternative to the Soho scene. This gallery showcasing exclusive work by Hong Kong-based photographers is located at Locofama, meaning you can contemplate the art while enjoying a flat white along with the restaurant cats lazing on the high-top tables. Many aspects of Hong Kong life are represented, from urban scenes and architecture to nature and aerial photography. And it’s affordable enough to take home: Simply browse the photo samples in the boxes, choose your print style and size and place your order (prices range from $1,400 to $6,000). Ten percent of the profits from each print sold go to a local charity – currently it’s ImpactHK, which assists the city’s homeless population.
Courtesy of Bamboo Scenes
The next exhibition, “Made in Home Kong,” begins on Saturday, March 16 with a free block party from 2 to 6pm that includes food from Locofama and Black Salt and a live D.J. In partnership with Home Kong, a lifestyle brand celebrating the city, Bamboo Scenes will display work by more than 20 local and international artists “showing a raw and authentic visual story of the streets of Hong Kong,” including some being exhibited for the first time.
“Tiffany Blues,” by Sharon Liu
Just starting out? Madelon de Grave, who founded Bamboo Scenes a year ago, encourages novice art collectors to visit galleries and discover what speaks to them. “In the end, it's all about what you like the most,” she said. “No one else can tell you what you should have on your wall.”
Address: 13 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun. Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 12 to 3pm, 6 to 9pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12 to 9pm
Another recently opened art studio with its own unique niche is Club Third, located at the end of Third Street in Sai Ying Pun. Founded by Catherine “Cath Love” Grossrieder, it strives to promote third-culture, local and minority talent. “As many artists are of multicultural backgrounds and call places other than Hong Kong home, they are equipped with a different perspective when it comes to artistic and creative expression,” Grossrieder said. “Varied social and cultural conditioning has shaped their visual articulation, and this provides our audience with a different insight.” So far the gallery has organized a group show, “Polvoron,” showcasing the work of two Filipina artists born and raised in Hong Kong, and the first solo show by Shann Larsson, a Swedish-Indian artist who grew up in Hong Kong.
The ground floor offers space for artistic expression, while the first floor is Grossrieder’s personal workspace. It houses works featuring her trademark character, Jeliboo, as well as her “Fast Taste” collection and pop surrealist art inspired by fried chicken. The gallery also organises activities to encourage families to create art together. The art made by the children is auctioned among friends and family to raise money for a cause the children choose themselves.
Courtesy of Club Third
Next up for the gallery is a solo show by the artist Syan, “Visual Energy Package for Spacetime Voyager,” which combines visuals, sound, graffiti and spirituality. There will be a chanting area in the center of the gallery to provide an aural backdrop as visitors view the art. The exhibition runs from March 22 to April 27.
Just starting out? “Simply start with a colour you like,” said Maggie Chiu, who opened Club Third with Grossrieder. She believes that everyone has an inner artist, and that people should consume art through their own personal lens. She also suggests making gallery outings a family affair so that children learn to enjoy and appreciate art.
Address: Shop 2, G/F Fook On Building, 192 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun (HKU Station, Exit B1). Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12 to 7pm